It all started great: after a five-year absence from international armwrestling competitions I unexpectedly put up a good fight at the World Championships 2012 in Brazil, having taken the 5th place in the heavyweight category (24 competitors participated in the tournament). Between 2001 and 2006 I achieved many successes at world championships, and even at the World Cup in 2003 I managed to win an award. What I want to say is that armwrestling is like a drug, if you’ve tried it once, it’s very hard to give it up. I didn’t stop completely, I coached athletes and organized competitions, but deep down I wanted to fight. Having received a new impetus to training, to work and an air of self-confidence, with fanatical zeal, I started looking for the next tournament to take part in. And then something interesting appeared on the horizon: while surfing the net I came across an advertisement of the International Armwrestling Championships Malaysia 2012, which were to be held on 8-11 December in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. In addition to that two days prior to the tournament, from 6 to 7 December, there was to take place a technical seminar for referees. On the official website it was stated that all the events were held under the auspices of the WAF (World Armwrestling Federation), which was confirmed by certificates issued by the International Federation of Armwrestling and photographs showing the management of Amiranz Armsport Academy (AAA) with the WAF’s General Secretary - Willy Denemoster of Belgian origin. All these indicated that AAA was the official representative of WAF in Malaysia. It seemed very encouraging, but then I remembered lots of negative comments about the tournaments in Malaysia. In fact, digging in the archives of "Iron World", I found an article authored by Vasily Kuznetsov (http://www.ironworld.ru/news/16314/), according to which in 2007 Malaysia was to hold a tournament «Malaysia Open» with a prize fund of about 100 thousand dollars, but the competition was cancelled 8 days before its scheduled opening. This incident provoked negative comments worldwide. Having learned the worrying information, I immediately addressed a question to the organizers of the new tournament. I managed to contact the Vice-President of Amiranz Armsport Academy - Ayu Emelda Othman. In correspondence with her, I was told that the AAA was a new armwrestling federation of Malaysia and it should not be identified with the previous tournament. I was assured that a new tournament would be held at a high level.
So I made up my mind – I decided to go. A few factors influenced my decision. First of all, I’ve never been in Malaysia, I love travelling, plus I wanted to compete in a big tournament very much. Of course the prize also played a role: 1st place - $ 1500, 2nd place - 1200 $, 3rd place - $ 800. And since I also write for the magazine "Iron World", I immediately thought that I would find some interesting materials for an article.
Travelling only on your own is boring, so I began to get together a team of the best armwrestlers. Denis Tsyplenkov was the first person I called. Dan said he had just got back from the U.S., the flight was very long and he didn’t like it. Besides, he was to begin his preparation for A1 – a Russian Open tournament. Also Andrey Pushkar and Sergey Tokarev refused to go explaining that they had a heavy workload. In fact, I think the guys were not interested in the prize, as most of it covered only the cost of air travel. It’s understandable, of course. Personally, I wasn’t disappointed, because it meant that I could gain more for myself. “His greed was his undoing" – you’ll say, and you’d be right, but we’ll get to that later on .... It turned out that the guys had made the right choice.
Before I bought the tickets for myself and a friend who decided to go there with me to participate in the referee seminar, we had officially been registered as participants of the competition on the website. But seven days prior to departure, I contacted the vice president of Amiranz Armsport Academy - Ayu Emelda Othman again to make sure that the event would take place and the value of the prizes hadn’t changed. The answer was positive. Although I sent messages to various representatives of AAA, whose addresses were indicated on the official website, only Ayu Emelda Othman would answer. Since we couldn’t wait any longer, we bought the tickets. We trusted the organizers and were certain that they would meet us at the airport and take to the hotel. I could see the pictures of the cup and the tournament paraphernalia with logos on the Internet, so deep down I was almost convinced that everything was going to be alright. I was more worried if our flight would take place as planned on December 4, since Kiev and Moscow were covered with snow.
And then came the day - December 4. Having miraculously travelled by train through snow-covered roads of Kiev to the airport "Borispol" and knowing that flights were not cancelled, we boarded the plane. I was already sitting in the cabin and going to switch off the phone before the take-off, when my wife called to tell me shocking news... No, she wasn’t leaving me for another man (just kidding). My wife told me that a few minutes before, the organizers announced on the official website of the Federation that the tournament was cancelled and postponed for two months – it was to be held on 23-24 February. You should have seen my face at that moment. Knowing that no one would reimburse the expenses incurred – we had paid for the plane tickets and booked the hotel, I tried to calm down , in the belief that it was a misunderstanding and everything would turn out well and I would fight in a few days. At heart I cherished the hope that the organizers would meet us at the airport in Kuala Lumpur and explain what had happened. But I was wrong. No one awaited us at the airport.
And there we were - two tourists with their bags on their shoulders in a totally unfamiliar city without knowing a word in Malay. We checked in at the hotel and continued to investigate the cause of the incident, hoping that it was just a dream. But the organizers vanished without trace. Fortunately, thanks to the Internet, my Facebook friends and the fact that armwrestling had fans all over the world I managed to contact and meet with Zil Fadli. He was the president of the armwrestling federation of Kuala Lumpur, a great guy, who was not involved in the organization of the tournament, but tried his best to help us. Malaysian sportsmen finally told me that the tournament wouldn’t take place, and many of them were confident about it from the start, as the head of the Amiranz Armsport Academy was a businessman Amir Ahmad. Neither was he involved in armwrestling, nor had he ever fought or trained a single athlete. He was, of course, interested in making money. He’s like a “parasite” who only wants to gain money at the organizers and athletes’ expense! The scheme is simple - they announce a tournament with some prize and entry fees, which, in theory, should cover the cost of the prize. At the same time they are selling the package “flight + hotel”, and of course, expect sponsorship money. But, while getting involved in organizing such a big event, people need to understand that they are taking responsibility and must provide athletes with a guarantee. They have to be aware of the fact that athletes have been preparing for the competition for several months, have spent a lot of energy, time and money. And then Amir Ahmad said the official reason for postponing the competition was that too few athletes declared participation in the tournament. It was 4 days before the tournament. I think it is a crime against the athletes. And how come these people can hide behind the logo of WAF? They’ve just disappeared without a word of apology. They disappeared again just to come up with another interesting idea, taking advantage of people’s love for armwrestling. I haven’t lost money, nor a medal. The worst thing that they took from me was an armwrestling feast, of which I had dreamt for a few months.
Author with his new friend Zil FadiAyu / Willy Denemosterand Emelda Othman
But I was a bit lucky - my dream came true eventually, though not completely. I struggled in a tournament in Malaysia thanks to Zilu. He gathered all the athletes, who also came to Malaysia and were out of work – these were armwrestlers from Egypt, Pakistan, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. On December 9 he took us to Malacca, a place situated 120 km from the capital, where the National championship was held. It was a lucky coincidence. I won the championship, but the nasty aftertaste remained. Of course, special thanks to the President of the Federation of Kuala Lumpur, Zil Fadli, as he tried to smooth over our bad impressions. Of course, the people were friendly, hospitable and the city of Kuala Lumpur was very beautiful. But the Amiranz Armsport Academy left us with negative feelings. Malaysia became a member of the World Armwrestling Federation only in March 2012 and a few months later they made such a bad mistake. I think WAF should take the most radical measures, e.g. deprive them of the right to host armwrestling tournaments, or at least - fine them, and at best - make efforts to ensure that athletes avoid tournaments organized by Amir Ahmad. I will inform the new president of WAF - Hadzhitodorov Assen about this situation and I will expect an official response from him.
Amiranz Armsport Academy announced that the International Armwrestling Championships in Malaysia are postponed till February. I want to warn all the armwrestling fans: I am sure that this is deception and yet another lie. Be careful, learn from others' mistakes.
Author: Andrey Sharkov